Norwich Theatre Royal AGM hears outgoing chief executive is leaving the venue in a strong position

Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive Peter Wilson. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive Peter Wilson. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Buoyant ticket sales and a bumper year of successful shows will ensure outgoing Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive Peter Wilson leaves the organisation in a good position, the venue's annual general meeting heard.

Mr Wilson today revealed how the theatre had done during the last financial year at his final annual meeting before he stands down as chief executive after almost 25 years at the helm.

His departure comes as the theatre announces an annual surplus of £572,410, more than double the previous year's figure of £219,397.

Mr Wilson said: 'We had anticipated and predicted this increase so, although it is welcome, it is not unexpected. It has not altered our resolve to present a balanced programme that has broad appeal as well as to invest in our environmental, educational and community work plus the ongoing improvements in access, comfort and safety.'

Highlights during the year included a host of musical favourites such as Top Hat, Jersey Boys, Dirty Dancing and Annie as well as some high-quality drama productions including Rebecca and The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time.

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Last autumn also brought a diverse range of productions to the stage including Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, satirical comedy Handbagged detailing the relationship between Mrs Thatcher and The Queen, dance spectacular The Last Tango and classic drama An Inspector Calls, and the festive season proved to be a big success.

Mr Wilson said: 'We had been bracing ourselves for an excellent pantomime season with Richard Gauntlett's return to play Dame in his own Snow White but were completely unprepared for the brilliance of the conception of the dwarves as puppets. 'They were created by the excellent Norwich Puppet Theatre and manipulated by our own dancing ensemble who rose to the challenge with flair and imagination. The collaboration with the Puppet Theatre was a pleasure throughout.'

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The theatre is also performing well when compared with 14 others of a similar size and type across the UK. Its average capacity sold across the year was 69pc, 10pc higher than the average in the survey, representing ticket sales of over 400,000, over 120,000 higher than the average.

The number of Friends of the theatre also remains high with 11,445 members, which is over 8000 over the national average. Support from the business community is also high with £41,600 coming from membership of the theatre's corporate club, which is almost £10,000 over the average.

Ahead of new chief executive Stephen Crocker taking the reins of the theatre in early January, Mr Wilson admits it is always hard to predict the future in the theatrical industry.

He said: 'I said last year that our relatively poor 2014-15 results were a useful reminder of the fragility of the theatre business and I make no apology for repeating that warning.

'The Theatre Royal, which is largely unsubsidised, risks many hundreds of thousands of pounds many months in advance on the assumption, and the hope, that Norfolk audiences will appreciate the banquet that will be laid out.

'The occasional disappointment does not negate the frequent triumphs of which I hope there will be many in the years ahead.'

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